India

Pinarayi asks Centre to lift cap on SDRF spending

The State government on Monday requested the Centre to lift the 25% limit on the utilisation of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the removal of the cap on SDRF spending would help State governments fight COVID-19 with better financial resources at hand.

Mr. Vijayan had made a case for State governments at a videoconference chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His counterparts in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh were present. The rains had caused severe havoc in the States that attended the top-level conference.

Mr. Vijayan said widespread testing and quarantine had severely stressed the resources of State governments, which had seen a shortfall in revenue due to reduced economic activity caused by the lockdown.

The floods had further exacerbated the dire financial situation faced by States. Mr. Vijayan said he hoped the Centre would provide sufficient resources to help States tide over the crisis. He told Mr Modi that Kerala would present a detailed report on rain havoc to the Centre soon.

Mr. Modi told Chief Ministers that the Centre would harness the latest technology to predict weather patterns more accurately. The Union Ministry of Water Resources, the Indian Meteorological Department, and the National Remote Sensing Centre would work in tandem to predict the weather accurately.

Mr. Vijayan told Mr Modi that Kerala could cushion the severity of the monsoon by de-silting rivers in advance, moving people from flood-prone localities to high ground and opening relief camps as per COVID-19 protocol. However, repeated floods since 2018 had taxed the State severely.

The current rain spell had caused extensive damage to crops, houses, and infrastructure in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Wayanad, and Idukki districts.

Currently, the government has accommodated 22,830 people in 6,967 relief camps across the State.

Mr. Vijayan told Mr. Modi that the storage levels in several dams in Kerala had touched the safety threshold. Kerala had requested Tamil Nadu to siphon off water from the Mullaperiyar dam after the water level threatened to go up above the prescribed limit. Dams such as Pampa had to open shutters to let off water, causing flooding in low-lying population centres downstream.

The Chief Minister thanked Mr. Modi for quickly despatching 10 NDRF teams to carry out search, rescue, and relief operations at the site of the landslip in Idukki and the air crash at the Karipur airport in Kozhikode.

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